2012/08/25

Ancient Egyptian Battles

Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of eastern North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River. The civilization began around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh, and has continued to grow over the next three millennia.

Ancient Egyptian Battles
Ancient Egyptian Battles


The history of ancient Egypt is divided into three kingdoms stabilized: the Old Kingdom (c.2686-2160 BC), The Middle Kingdom (c.2055-1650 BC) and the New Kingdom (c.1550- 1069 BC) separated by two unstable interim periods. These periods were characterized by minor battles, political unrest and revolutions that wars before the new kingdom have no written documents. Three major wars were fought during the New Kingdom.
Battle Mediggo (c. 1457 BC)
Megiddo was fought between Egyptian forces under Pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite army under the King of Kadesh. This is the first battle to have been recorded in detail relatively reliable. Megiddo was also the first battle to save the use of the composite bow and the number of bodies of victims of the war. All details of the battle came from the hieroglyphic writings on the Hall of Annals in the Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak, Thebes (now Luxor), by the military scribe Tjaneni.
Megiddo was an Egyptian victory and resulted in the defeat of the forces of Canaan, who had fled to safety in the city of Megiddo. Their work has resulted in the seat after long Megiddo. Restoring Egyptian rule in the Levant, Pharaoh Thutmose III began a reign in which the Egyptian Empire reached its greatest extent.
Battle of Kadesh (c. 1274 BC)
The Battle of Kadesh (or Kadesh) took place between the forces of the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II to the city of Kadesh on the Orontes, in what is now the Arab Republic Syria. The battle is generally dated to about 1274 BC. It was probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving about 5000-6000 tanks.
Although the Egyptian accounts say Muwatalli called for a truce, footnote Hittite documents such arrangement. However, neither side won a complete victory. Skirmishes operating regions bordering finally concluded fifteen years after the Battle of Kadesh by a formal peace treaty in 1258 BC, in the 21st year of the reign of Ramses II, with Hattusili III, the new king of the Hittites . This treaty, which is now on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, is considered the most ancient example of any international agreement in writing of any kind.
Battle of the Delta (c. 1178-1175 BC)
The Battle of the Delta was a great naval battle fought between Egyptian forces and the people of the sea called, when the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses III repulsed a great sea invasion by the "sea peoples". The conflict occurred somewhere on the banks of the Nile Delta and eastern part of the borders of the Egyptian empire in Syria, although their precise location is unknown.
This battle has been described as "the first naval battle in history." The major conflict is recorded on the temple walls of the funerary temple of Pharaoh Ramses III at Medinet Habu. Ultimately, Egypt were so weakened by the battle he never got to be the powerful kingdom it was before the invasion of seafarers Ramses III is generally regarded as the last pharaoh of the great Egyptian New Kingdom. Conflict with the Sea Peoples also drained his treasure. Thus, the Egyptians used to say that death comes across the seas.

Ancient Egyptian Spears

In ancient Egypt spears were used since the earliest times for hunting. Wjile they were used as javelins to catch fish they were later replaced by the bow and arrow. It continued to be used as a lance for hunting bigger animals such as elephants and wildebeests as they had a much longer reach than most weapons.

In war, it did not gain the same degree of importance as it did in classical Greece. It was, though, considered important enough to be depicted in the hands of Ramses II in a painting. It must be noted however that in the painting Ramses was not shown to be in a war-like or belligerent stance but in more of an exultant one.

Ancient Egyptian Spears

Ancient Egyptian Spears


During the New Kingdom it was often an auxiliary weapon of the charioteers, who were thus not left unarmed after spending all their arrows. It was also most useful in their hands when they chased down fleeing enemies stabbing them in their backs. Amenhotep II's victory at Shemesh-Edom in Canaan is described at Karnak

...... Behold His Majesty was armed with his weapons, and His Majesty fought like Set in his hour. They gave way when His Majesty looked at one of them, and they fled. His majesty took all their goods himself, with his spear.....


W.M.Flinders Petrie A History of Egypt, Part Two, p.155

Egyptians eventually began adopting weapons and tactics prevalent among the other Mediterranean nations; in the war between Cyrus and Croesus huge numbers of Egyptian spearmen were involved

... a body of Egyptians were coming by sea, amounting--so said the Indians--to 120,000 men, armed with long shields reaching to their feet, huge spears (such as they carry to this day), and sabres.

Xenophon: Cyropaedia, Translated by H. G. Dakyns


According to Xenophon they fought in squares one hundred men wide and one hundred deep.

Their spears were immensely stout and long, such as they carry to this day, and the huge shield not only gave more protection than corslet and buckler, but aided the thrust of the fighter, slung as it was from the shoulder. Shield locked into shield, they thrust their way forward; and the Persians could not drive them back, with their light bucklers borne on the forearm only.

Xenophon: Cyropaedia, Translated by H. G. Dakyns

Hence it is safe to conclude that while spears were very prevalent in Ancient Egypt as hunting tools their lack of use as weapons caused them to slowly die out. Over a period of time they became more like props in the hands of guards then an actual weapon of battle.

Ancient Egyptian Shields

 Ancient Egyptian Shields

During the ancient Egyptian period there were no complex weapons to fight battles like the ones that are available today. Since the early Egyptian times the only weapon used for protecting the body of the soldiers during war was the shields. It is the earliest known protective armor.

The shields during ancient Egypt were rectangular in shape and were made from cowhide or ox hide. These shields were stretched over a wooden frame. In the early Egyptian period shields were of the same height as that of a man. 

 Ancient Egyptian Shields



However, shields of one or one and a half meter height are also known to have been used by the ancient Egyptian warriors. The size of the shield used for fighting varied upon the usage of the weapon. Bronze shields were used at the time of the New Kingdom reign. The metal shields were ornamented by carving pictures on them.

Big shields were inconvenient during wars as they were heavy and restricted the time for which they could be carried. On the other hand, smaller shields were easy to manage and also served the purpose of protecting its user from being attacked.

By the early New Kingdom period the tall shields were replaced by smaller shields that had a tapered lower half. The ancient Egyptian shields had a handle or a leather strip which was placed at the centre of the wooden frame so as to give its user a good grip of the shield. The soldiers also used shields that could be carried by a strap slung over the shoulder. These kinds of shields gave more mobility to the user.